With the playoff spots on the line, FC Goa will be aiming for nothing less than the win and three points when they take on Chennaiyin FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) on Thursday.
The impending clash will also be FC Goa’s last match home in the league stage this season. Having won six out of nine matches so far at Fatorda, home comfort will help the Gaurs head towards the fixture with added confidence.
While Chennaiyin FC are already out of the playoffs race, their campaign is far from over. Thomas Brdaric’s side are known for their ability to cause upsets, and could derail the hosts’ campaign if they manage to take home any point from Thursday’s game.
The fact that the Marina Machans have nothing to lose makes them all the more dangerous, something which Carlos Pena and co should be wary of.
Ahead of the match, FC Goa head coach Carlos Pena maintained that he believes in his team’s ability to qualify for the next stage of the competition.
“We are still in the fight, and we know exactly what we have to do. It’s important to know where we came from, having finished last season in ninth and having made several changes to the squad since then. If we finish in the top-six and secure a playoff spot, it means we’ve fulfilled one of our primary objectives for this season,” he said.
The hosts recently played a high-scoring thriller against Mumbai City where they ended up on the losing side despite having scored three goals. When asked if such results play a role in influencing the mentality of the team heading into crucial fixtures, Pena said that the key to focus is to put past results behind them.
“The past, whether it’s positive or negative, is in the past and nothing can be changed about it. All we can control is how we perform in the present and to an extent, the future.
“I tell my players to play with a cold heart, to forget the past and with a warm mind, to focus on the present,” the 38-year-old concluded.
While Mumbai City FC and Hyderabad FC have qualified directly for the semi-finals, there is a five-way race to determine who grabs the four spots for the playoffs. FC Goa will look to get their names into the playoffs for the 7th time in 9 seasons as they compete with Kerala Blasters, ATK Mohun Bagan, Bengaluru FC and Odisha FC.
Based on the results in upcoming matches, there are multiple possibilities on how the standings can look at the end of the league season. That said, if FC Goa is to win both their remaining matches, the other results will be a mere formality at this stage.
Beating Chennaiyin FC will see FC Goa climb to fourth place. A draw or a defeat, on the other hand, will further narrow down the Gaurs’ chances of qualification, with Odisha currently in seventh on the same number of points as them.
Injuries to Petar Sliskovic and Nasser El Khayati means the Marina Machans will be without two of their biggest goal-threats. This hands Goa a huge boost, especially at home where they have been able to dominate almost every other opponent.
Pena, meanwhile, will also be happy that all his own players are available for selection, and will look to field his best possible starting XI on Thursday in expectation of a win.